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Arsenal must swallow their pride to beat Manchester City

Saturday 1st April 2017
Arsenal face a massive test at the weekend as they host Manchester City at the Emirates. It is their first big game since they were outclassed 5-1 against Bayern Munich earlier this month. Since then, they have beaten Lincoln 5-0 in the FA Cup, but they were then beaten 3-1 by West Brom. Not quite the response that Arsene Wenger was looking for.

However, Manchester City comprises a test that Arsenal can pass, with Pep Guardiola's side out of sorts at best. While they are a team that have struggled hugely, they are still in the hunt for a Champions League place, and they have played some very good football, even with all of their struggles.

So how can Arsenal beat Guardiola's side? Most of the teams that have gotten results against Manchester City have decided it is best not to go toe-to-toe with City. Their whole philosophy surrounds keeping the ball and applying constant pressure with their probing passes and clever running.

Therefore, this should dictate that Arsene Wenger should employ a more intelligent approach which allows Arsenal to use their blistering pace on the counter-attack to hurt Manchester City. After all, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez are deadly opponents when they have space to run into.

Tactically, this is vital for Arsenal, as they were tactically inept when they played against Liverpool in March. Arsenal was aware then too, that Liverpool would look to keep the ball and apply consistent pressure until Arsenal's defence cracked.

Interestingly, though, Leicester had comfortably beaten Liverpool 3-1 the week before as they allowed the Reds to keep the ball, soaking up pressure before breaking at them. This proved incredibly effective. The following week, Liverpool employed the same tactics, and easily beat Arsenal, who played a high line, thus allowing the Reds to get in behind them.

This weekend, Arsenal have to try to soak up the pressure and break at City. Guardiola's side will get their chances throughout the game, but these are more likely to be half chances if Arsenal's box is packed with players. This will, in turn, mean that City's line will be higher up the pitch, meaning a break that ends in a chance for Arsenal is far more likely.

City's inability to defend properly will also hugely help Arsenal on Sunday. Their struggles have been well documented throughout the season with goalkeeping woes and both Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones unable to defend. It should give Arsenal a huge amount of confidence going forward.

It may not be the most popular decision, but Arsenal will be far more likely to win this game, and their other fixtures against the top teams if they learn to appropriately play against their top of the table opposition.

Will the Gunners actually play this way though? It's very unlikely. Arsenal's fans will lambast Wenger if their team loses to City if they go head to head, but they will be equally as angry if they see their side letting themselves get dominated throughout the match. Of course, this will all be forgotten if they win, but the supporters will cite it is no way for a top of the table team to play.

Honestly, it looks like a lose-lose situation for the manager. Realistically, he must make his team sit deep, soak up the pressure and break, whereas the fans want to see their team play total football, dominate their opponents and beat them soundly, something very few teams can do to City.

It is likely then that Arsenal's woeful record against the top six will continue, and they will lose more ground on the leading pack.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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